On this day in 1697, a 20-year old medical student was summarily executed in Britain for the unspeakable crime of blasphemy. Thomas Aikenhead was the last person ever put to death in Britain for the criminal act of not believing the tales of myth and legend that were cobbled together by Bronze Age men of Palestine.
Thomas had dared say that the Old Testament stories–of men living to be 1,000 years old, of millions of animals embarking on a sea voyage while the Creator of the Universe flooded the world, of a man living in the belly of a big fish for three days—were nothing but fables. He had the temerity to proclaim that the Scriptures were “stuffed with such madness, nonsense, and contradictions, that he admired the stupidity of the world in being so long deluded by them: That he rejected the mystery of the Trinity as unworthy of refutation; and scoffed at the incarnation of Christ.” The Church of Scotland could have granted the young man a reprieve from his death sentence, but instead they urged “vigorous execution.”
We must never forget the way the Church and its clergy treated human beings who dared to question their authority, back when the Church was strong, when they were able to hold back the advances of science and the inquiring mind by torture and murder. They come to us now with their ingratiating smile, welcoming us to their church for fellowship and community. “Of course we don’t believe the Bible literally,” the clerics chuckle. “It’s just metaphorical. Have some coffee, talk to your neighbors. You’ll have a lovely time on Sundays.”
Religion today still attempts to grow its base of voluntary serfs who will pay the weekly tithe, send their children to religious schools, promote the ancient propaganda and help maintain the dwindling position of religion in the modern world. They still lobby the government for special tax exempt status, they influence political candidates with promises of votes from their flock—and how insulted should one feel when called a sheep by the clergy—or threats to cast their votes for another candidate who is willing to appease.
In New Hampshire, right now in 2012, two separate bills have been proposed by Congressmen to force teachers to intentionally muddy the minds of our children when it comes to education in science. Surely with the full backing of the Church, these men ignore the Constitution they are sworn to defend, ignore the Supreme Court who has ruled decisively against inserting religious dogma into the education of our children, and attempt to push through pseudo science in the name of their “faith.”
In Kentucky, Answers in Genesis (an oxymoron if ever there was one) is attempting to build a Noah’s Ark theme park–and has received state government financial aid to do so—to teach would be visitors that this absurd mythical tale of heavenly genocide actually took place. This is from the same group that brought us the laughable Creation Museum, where Jesus saddles up a dinosaur and children are taught that the Earth is 6,000 years old.
Of course this is in the United States, the only nation on Earth that prohibits the establishment of religion in our founding documents. Even with the legal boundary in place, described as a wall of separation by Thomas Jefferson, the Church forges ahead with its attempts to infiltrate and impact all aspects of American life. Never mind that the entire premise on which they are built has been demonstrated to be false: from their explanation of the origin of the cosmos to their explanation of the origin of species. Never mind that their holy books have been shown to possess only fantasy and myth. Still they persist on having a seat at the table and beware to any politician that dare rebuke them. In the United Kingdom, blasphemy laws were only recently abolished.
It is imperative to the future of our societies that we not forget this date in 1697, that we not forget Thomas Aikenhead, that we not forget the Crusades, the Inquisition, the witch-hunts, the book burning, the oppression of women, the mental and physical torture of children. These crimes against humanity are the legacy of the Church, and given even half the chance, they would surely repeat them gladly.